A friend of mine replaces all his spices at the end of the year, throwing out the old and buying new. When I heard this I was both inspired and frightened—all your spices, every year? I realized this would be an ideal way to avoid the so-old-I-don’t-even-remember-when-I-bought-it jars of musty oregano and marjoram that live in the back of my cupboards, but at the same time it scared me. What might I find in the dark depths of the spice cupboard?

It seems that cookbook author Deborah Madison has a similar routine, though it extends to her entire kitchen. In her monthly column on Culinate she details her big New Year’s clean. She enjoys the ritual, both for what it accomplishes and for the opportunity to reflect on the year past.

Everything gets cleaned, assessed, and accounted for, but these harbored contents are not just dull, inanimate things. They also serve as mirrors to my world of the past 12 months.

… Do I really still have that old jar of argon oil from a trip to Morocco so many years ago, or that sack of jerky given to me quite some time ago? Apparently I do! Or what about that flaxseed oil I had promised to take daily but didn’t?

Madison is so poetic about the act of cleaning, she nearly has me on the bandwagon as well. “Throwing food away isn’t easy to do,” she writes, “but doing so relieves the clutter not only in my refrigerator but in my palate and mind as well.”

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